Connecting 20th-century Scottish artists to a golden Russian cigarette case in six steps

Published 9 December 2014

Sam Phillips investigates the six degrees of separation between an Edinburgh garden and the influence of Pop art on Communist Russia.

  • 1. The Two Roberts

    Robert MacBryde and Robert Colquhoun are forgotten figures, but in the 1950s the two Scottish painters – partners in life as well as art – were celebrated artists, central to the Soho set that included Freud and Bacon. But their post-Cubist canvases (MacBryde’s Two Women Sewing, c.1948, pictured) fell out of fashion, and both died tragically young. Edinburgh’s Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art stages a retrospective of their work (until 24 May 2015).

  • Robert MacBryde, Two Women Sewing

    Robert MacBryde, Two Women Sewing, c. 1948.

    Oil on canvas. 100 x 143 cm. Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art.

  • Ian Hamilton Finlay

    Fellow Scottish artist Ian Hamilton Finlay befriended MacBryde and Colquhoun in London, before going on to plough a fertile artistic furrow that fused poetry, visual art and – in the form of Finlay’s masterpiece, the garden Little Sparta in Lanarkshire (pictured) – landscape. Rarely seen photographs and films of the garden are among the varied works on view in Cambridge’s Kettle’s Yard survey show (until 1 March 2015).

  • Ian Hamilton Finlay's garden, Little Sparta, in Lanarkshire

    Ian Hamilton Finlay's garden, Little Sparta, in Lanarkshire

    Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art

  • Julio Le Parc

    Those a long way from Lanarkshire can see a work by Finlay on permanent display at London’s Serpentine Gallery that includes a circular stone inscribed with text. In the Serpentine’s Sackler space, octogenarian Argentinian artist Julio Le Parc presents his own type of visual poetry: kinetic sculptures (such as Continuous Light Mobile, 1960-66, pictured) animated by light, motors and the movement of the viewer (until 15 Feb 2015).

  • Continuous Light Mobile (1960-66), Julio Le Parc

    Continuous Light Mobile (1960-66), Julio Le Parc

    Courtesy: Archive Julio Le Parc, Cachan, Paris.

  • Adventures of the Black Square

    Le Parc’s South American contemporaries were seen in the RA’s recent show Radical Geometry, including dazzling works by Jesús Soto and Carlos Cruz Diez. Adventures of the Black Square at London’s Whitechapel Gallery follows in its footsteps (until 6 April 2015), exploring how geometric abstraction spread across continents, inspired by Russian pioneers, such as Kazimir Malevich and Lyubov Popova (see Painterly Architectonic, 1916, pictured).

  • Kazimir Malevich and Lyubov Popova, Painterly Architectonic

    Kazimir Malevich and Lyubov Popova, Painterly Architectonic, 1916.

    © Leonid Sokov, 1989.

  • Post Pop

    While the world embraced abstraction, the Soviet Union abandoned it, in favour of Socialist Realism. Post Pop: East Meets West at London’s Saatchi Gallery (until 23 Feb 2015) looks at how Pop art in the West influenced artists in Communist Russia and China, encouraging, for example, Soviet artists such as Vitaly Komar and Leonid Sokov (see Two Profiles (Stalin and Marilyn), 1989, pictured) to subvert archetypal Socialist images.

  • Vitaly Komar and Leonid Sokov, Two Profiles (Stalin and Marilyn)

    Vitaly Komar and Leonid Sokov, Two Profiles (Stalin and Marilyn), 1989.

    Collage. Image courtesy of Vladimir Antonichuk, Moscow.

  • The Art of Gold

    Decades before the Iron Curtain came down the Russian jeweller Carl Fabergé became famed for work in more precious metals. A cigarette case he produced in three types of gold (1903, pictured) is enough to make me take up smoking. Given to Edward VII by the Dowager Tsarina of Russia in 1903, it is one of the highlights of a show of exquisite gold objects from the Royal Collection on view at the Queen’s Gallery in Buckingham Palace (until 22 Feb 2015).

  • Cigarette case by Carl Faberge? (1903)

    Cigarette case by Carl Faberge? (1903)

    Royal Collection Trust, © Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II (2014)


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